Afraid of the Bible?

Why do some people feel a relentless need to attack the credibility of the Bible?

These attacks were (for many years) aimed primarily at an assumed contradiction between the Bible and science. The notion that the Bible requires a certain age for the Earth fueled these efforts to discredit the creation narrative. What many still do not realize is that the assumptions behind the science vs. creation debate are faulty (see: Confusing faith and science).

The endless attacks on the Bible beg the question: “Why are people so afraid of the Bible?”

It cannot be denied that the Christian Scripture played a central role in the founding and formation of our nation. The first English settlers looked to the Bible to guide them. “The influence of the Bible on their literature, their music, and their lives came with them. Their Christian faith was as much a part of who they were as their audacious spirit.” (Woodrow Kroll).

Perhaps this fact from history is behind many of the recent attacks aimed at Christianity and the Bible. Some feel that Christians have enjoyed status as the reigning ideology for long enough. Whatever the motivation, there is a growing band of anti-Christian missionaries who joyfully celebrate the marginalization of Christianity. But don’t let them fool you into believing that they are safeguarding us from some sort of Christian imperialism. Closer to the truth, they despise the influence the Bible carries on moral conclusions of voting members of the nation. Because the Bible doesn’t support their desired lifestyles, they increasingly see it (and those who take Scripture seriously) as an enemy to their cultural agenda for reshaping American life.

The tone of condescending ridicule aimed at the Bible has been common fodder for late-night comedians, and the media. What is more disturbing is the number in ordained ministry and on seminary faculties who encourage people not to take the Bible seriously. This reminds me of the New Testament warning that “a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Many of these ministers insist upon some sort of allegiance to the Bible even while they discredit it as a reliable moral guide for life today. With all their doubts about the integrity and reliability of the Bible, I honestly wonder why they don’t just get another book to teach and follow.

One of the latest waves of anti-biblical rhetoric  follows a pattern of listing strange laws meant to govern Israel as a nation during the Old Testament era and scoffing at how incredulous they sound to modern times (see: A strange yet realistically hopeful book). Another approach picks out the transparent stories about the bad things done by some of the main characters of the Bible. These things are all used to make the closing argument: “You cannot look to the Bible as a reliable guide for life today.”

Some critics are even more misleading by suggesting that the Bible promotes slavery, oppression of women and genocide. These accusations are not based on careful historical research of ancient Near Eastern contexts. Most often they are taken out of context and manipulated to serve a biased agendas.

I am not suggesting that everything in the Bible is easy to understand or accept. It is not easy to read about God’s judgments, but perhaps our perspective misses the greatness of his mercy in allowing rebellious creatures to live. Although we do not understand all the laws meant to govern Israel as a nation during OT times, we do know from repeated emphasis in the New Testament that believers today are not under those laws.

The fact that the Bible reveals its main characters violating God’s will for things like marriage and sexuality actually strengthens the authenticity of the text. As author, Dick Keyes wrote, “I never felt the God of the Bible was asking me to put on rose-colored glasses. Even the heroes of the Bible were described unsparingly in appalling moral failures—lies, sexual aberrations and murders.”

“I did not have to give up the honesty and realism that I had valued. Cynicism claimed that the world— both inside and outside of our heads—was profoundly broken and bent. I realized that the Christian faith had been saying this for two-thousand years, and Judaism for longer than that” (Seeing Through Cynicism: A Reconsideration of the Power of Suspicion).

The honesty of the biblical narrative reminds us that we are all sinners who have not lived up to God’s plan for us. So I come back to one compelling question: “What way of seeing things corresponds most with reality and does not contradict what I clearly know to be true?” Asked differently, “What seems to be the most plausible way of seeing things in light of what we know about humanity, the observable world and its history?

I believe the biblical narrative and the Christian worldview it presents offers the most logically consistent and plausibly realistic understanding of life and the world. It simply does the best job explaining the world we encounter each day. And it offers the best explanatory frame for the most extensive range of evidence in the world and in the human spirit. There is no other way of understanding the world that corresponds with reality as comprehensively.

Steve Cornell

When faith causes doubts

Some struggle because they doubt; I sometimes struggle because I believe.

I believe in a God whose love is so great that He is love. I also believe in a God who is all-powerful. But sometimes my belief causes me to struggle.

When I see sad and desperate situations, compassion compels me to help and to pray. If I am completely honest, this is where faith can become a little confusing.

When I can’t do anything to alleviate the pain and suffering (especially of those whom I love), my faith is unwavering in the fact that God can do something to help. But when I pray and nothing changes to alleviate their suffering, or they become worse, I struggle to understand why God doesn’t seem to answer the cries of my heart for those in need.

I am not completely sure what role faith and prayer play in the painful and perplexing drama of human suffering.

An old tension

I realize that I am not the first to be conflicted between faith and suffering. I resonate with the psalmist,

“How long, O Lord ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:1-2).

“I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me. Do not hide your face from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in trouble. Come near and rescue me…” (Psalm 69:3, 16-18).

Like the psalmist, I have also struggled with an apparent uneven distribution of pain and suffering. This is the age-old question of why righteous people suffer and the wicked are healthy and prosperous (see: Psalm 73). But I maintain strong reservations about anyone being righteous enough to lay claim to a good life from God.

Needed perspective

I believe in the verdict “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). I also believe that, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death is such a horrible word and an even more horrible fact. But it is a just verdict pronounced over sinners like me. I am slowly experiencing it every day of my life.

I believe that there is a dark and sad back-story to our suffering and a glorious end-story for those whom God loves. Yet pain in this life is often hard to reconcile with God’s love and power.

The agonizing question we face is why God chooses to allow pain and suffering when I am praying so much for its relief. Why doesn’t He answer my agonizing prayers for those who suffer? I cannot endure superficial answers to this real-life question.

Skeptics offer answers ranging from atheism to deism. But for honest people, these alternatives only lead to deeper levels of despair. They also force a degree of thoughtless dishonesty which I cannot permit. If I must choose between “no God” or “a God who means well but either cannot or will not do much to help” I am left with even more perplexing questions on more levels than human suffering. In addition, these conclusions profoundly compromise basic intellectual integrity.

Other questions 

Let’s not ignore other questions equally worthy of reflection. Why does God choose to love and to forgive rebellious creatures? The back-story of human sin explains the source of human suffering better than any other explanation (and there are not many others). So why would I think we deserve to have it better?

Why do I feel that God should intervene? And what would intervention look like on a world scale?

If want God’s love and power to converge to rescue us from our misery, isn’t this exactly what happened when God entered our world of suffering in the person of Christ and suffered for us ? (see: II Corinthians 5:17-21).

Finally, why does God even provide such a glorious end-story for forgiven sinners?

Cultural conditioning

On a cultural level, I admit that I have become accustom to (and even impatient for) solutions to pain and suffering. Advancements in science and medicine have strengthened my expectations. Is it possible that I am conditioned to hold unrealistic expectation for health and gregariousness? Do I have a place for sadness and suffering in normal life?

These are not theoretical questions for me. They have been real for most of my life. When my father came down with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis in his mid-thirties, I learned what it was like to carry a prayerful burden for a suffering loved one. It profoundly shaped my life and, gratefully, did not lead to bitterness. I learned so much about God’s sustaining grace and His redeeming power to bring good out of pain and suffering.

I continued to learn when I entered pastoral ministry and chose to care about many others. Some key scriptures that carry me to better places include: II Corinthians 1:3-11; 4:16-18;12:1-10; James 1:2-9; Psalm 62:8; Proverbs 3:5-6.

I will continue to pray and trust that suffering has a purpose even when I cannot see it. I will pray with one eye on the back-story and a hope-filled focus on the end-story (see: Colossians 3:1-4).

When God’s loved ones enter the place He has prepared for them, ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (see: Revelation 21:1-6; John 14:1-3). I find myself longing more and more for this day; for this place.

Reflect on these words:

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:9-10).

Steve Cornell

We serve no sovereign here

The story is told of an Englishman who came to America in the decade of the sixties. Upon arrival he spent his first week in Philadelphia becoming acquainted with historic landmarks, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

In order to familiarize himself with American culture, he visited several antique stores that specialized in colonial and revolutionary memorabilia. In one such shop he saw several posters and signboards that contained the slogans of the revolution, such as No Taxation Without Representation, and Don’t Tread on Me.

One signboard attracted his attention more than the rest. In bold letters the sign proclaimed: WE SERVE NO SOVEREIGN HERE. As he mused on this sign, he wondered how people steeped in such an anti-monarchical culture could come to grips with the notion of the kingdom of God and the sovereignty that belongs to the Lord (source: R. C. Sproul, Following Christ).

David B. Hart summarized where we stand on this matter now

“… each of us who is true to the times stands facing not God, or the gods, or the Good beyond beings, but an abyss, over which presides the empty, inviolable authority of the individual will, whose impulses and decisions are their own moral index.”

“This is not to say that – sentimental barbarians that we are – we do not still invite moral and religious constraints upon our actions; none but the most demonic, demented, or adolescent among us genuinely desires to live in a world purged of visible boundaries and hospitable shelters.”

“Thus this man may elect not to buy a particular vehicle because he considers himself an environmentalist; or this woman may choose not to have an abortion midway through her second trimester, because the fetus, at that point in its gestation, seems to her too fully formed, and she–personally – would feel wrong about terminating ‘it.’ But this merely illustrates my point: we take as given the individual’s right not merely to obey or defy the moral law, but to choose which moral standards to adopt, which values to uphold, which fashion of piety to wear and with what accessories.”

“Even our ethics are achievements of will. And the same is true of those custom-fitted spiritualities – ‘New Age,’ occult, pantheist, ‘Wiccan,’ or what have you – by which many of us now divert ourselves from the quotidien dreariness of our lives.”

“These gods of the boutique can come from anywhere – native North American religion, the Indian subcontinent, some Pre-Raphaelite grove shrouded in Celtic twilight, cunning purveyors of otherwise worthless quartz, pages drawn at random from Robert Graves, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, or that redoubtable old Aryan, Joseph Campbell – but where such gods inevitably come to rest are not so much divine hierarchies as ornamental étagères, where their principal office is to provide symbolic representations of the dreamier sides of their votaries’ personalities.”

“The triviality of this sort of devotion, its want of dogma or discipline, its tendency to find its divinities not in glades and grottoes but in gift shops make it obvious that this is no reversion to pre-Christian polytheism. It is, rather, a thoroughly modern religion, whose burlesque gods command neither reverence, nor dread, nor love, nor belief; they are no more than the masks worn by that same spontaneity of will that is the one unrivalled demiurge who rules this age and alone bids its spirits come and go” (First Things, David B. Hart, 2000).

R. C. Sproul noted that, “The concept of lordship invested in one individual is repugnant to the American tradition, yet this is the boldness of the claim of the New Testament for Jesus, that absolute sovereign authority and imperial power are vested in Christ” (Following Christ).

Without such sovereign authority, we are never truly free.

Jesus said it this way, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Our well-being is at risk on every side if we choose a kind of freedom that refuses to serve the only true sovereign of the universe. 

The Sovereign One, unlike all would-be Sovereigns, 

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges, he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).

Before leaving this world, the Sovereign One said, 

“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

In freedom under sovereign Lordship,

Steve Cornell

Is religion the primary source of violence?

In Unspeakable: Facing up to Evil in an Age of Genocide and Terror,” author Os Guinness noted that,

“It is a widely held and largely unquestioned belief in educated circles today that religion is the main cause of repression and violence in our world and an essentially divisive and explosive force in public life that we would be wise to exclude from the public square altogether. For example, one New York Times reporter argued after September 11 that our main problem is not terrorism but ‘religious totalitarianism’ and that the danger of religious totalitarianism was represented not just by Islam but by Judaism and the Christian faith as well—in fact, by all faiths that have ‘absolute’ or ‘exclusive’ claims.”

Contrary to this contemporary myth, Guinness carefully details the fact that,

“The worst modern atrocities were perpetrated by secularist regimes, led by secularist intellectuals, and in the name of secularist beliefs.”

Those who believe that more wars have been waged and more people killed in the name of religion than by any other institutional force in human history are factually off. And Guinness is rightly concerned that the lazy repetition of this myth, “seriously distorts public debate and endangers democratic freedom.”

Contrary to widespread opinion, he notes that, “September 11 was a break with the worst twentieth-century massacres because the atrocity was done in the name of Allah” (Emphasis mine).

This is not to deny the horrific massacres in the name of religion. Yet the fact remains,

“More people were killed by secularist regimes in the twentieth century than in all the religious persecutions in Western history, and perhaps in all history. More than one hundred million human beings were killed by secularist regimes and ideologies in the last century” (Guinness).

The examples are staggering, the Ottoman massacre of more than a million Armenians, the slaughtered of nearly two million people by Cambodia’s communist leader Pol Pot, the murder of an estimated thirty million Russians by Stalin and Mao ZeDong’s unimaginable destruction of sixty-five million Chinese. Add to this Hitler and the extermination of millions of Jews. Guinness rightly notes,

“Hitler and the Nazis are something of a special case. Hitler was implacably hostile to the Christian faith, but not an advocate of atheism. Almost to a person, as the history of Nazism and the record of the Nuremberg trials attest, the Nazi leaders were ex-Christians and ex-Catholics. Those, including Hitler, who had Christian backgrounds vehemently rejected them. Hitler said, “Our epoch will certainly see the end of the disease of Christianity.”

The point must not be missed. The dictators behind the most horrific carnage of human history were not motivated by religion. These atrocities were inflicted by secular regimes for secular reasons. “The full story of the evils of Stalin and Mao is yet to be unearthed and told with anything like the completeness accorded to Hitler and the Nazis, but the secularist commitments are clear beyond dispute” (Guinness).

Don’t allow others to deceive you about the facts. 

“Secularist philosophies such as atheism are just as ‘totalitarian’ as the three ‘religions of the Book.’ What secularists believe is so total, or all-encompassing, that it excludes what the religious believer believes. The most notable recent example of this was Communism. Guinness correctly identifies Communism as, “…the most dangerous delusion in history so far.” The era of Communism has been accurately described as “an atheistic millennialism.”

The persistent inclination to blame religion is rooted in “…an unexamined Enlightenment prejudice that simultaneously reduces faith to its functions and recognizes only the worst contributions of faith, not the best—such as the rise of the universities, the development of modern science, the abolition of slavery, and the promotion of human rights” (Guinness).

“In his magisterial moral history of the twentieth century, Humanity, Jonathan Glover points out that even those who do not believe in a religious moral law should be troubled by its fading. ‘It’s striking how many protest against and acts of resistance to atrocity have also come from principled religious commitment.’”

“Contrary to what is commonly argued,” Guinness concludes, “our problem in the public square is not ‘religious totalitarianism,’ and the solution is not a ‘multilingual relativism’ that bans all absolute and exclusive claims. In a day of exploding diversity, the real question is: how do we live with our deepest differences when many of those differences are absolute, including those of secularism?”

Steve Cornell

An Indisputable fact of history


All those who take history seriously acknowledge the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ. 

It’s an indisputable fact of history that there existed in the first century a man identified as Jesus of Nazareth. We possess detailed accounts of his birth, life, contemporaries, and death.

We know when Jesus lived– 5/6 BC through 30/32 BC., and where he was born — the town of Bethlehem. We know where he spent most of his life— Nazareth of Galilee. We know about many historical figures of the same period of human history.

We know more details surrounding the death of Jesus Christ than any other person in the ancient world. We also know many details about the events leading up to his death—his betrayal, arrest, religious and civil trial. We know what was said to Jesus by the leaders of Israel and Rome; what was said by the crowd and by those who were crucified with him. We also know what Jesus said to these people as well as what he said to his followers. We even know the name of an obscure person who carried his cross, and the names of those who assisted in his burial. These are historical details that matter to historians, 

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the most famous death in history. Scholars debate its significance but they cannot honestly deny that it happened. 

Of course, there is a turning point in the history of Jesus and, (although found in the same historical documents), not everyone believes the rest of the story about Jesus Christ.

These documents present a clear picture of Jesus as one who existed prior to his birth and one who rose from the grave (John 8:58). The story in the New Testament consistently presents Christ as one who does not fit the normal categories for human beings. He is fully human but not merely human (Philippians 2:5-11). 

 But can we trust the historical account. Unfortunately some people choose not to trust the historical record despite its authenticity. They do this not because the texts cannot stand under normal scrutiny applied to historical witness but because of their strong bias against anything that involves the supernatural or miraculous.

But an exceptionally reasonable case can be made for the historical reliability of the New Testament. In fact, when the rules that guide standard criticism of historical witness are applied to the New Testament, a solid case can be made for its trustworthiness. 

When evaluating the integrity of documents, historians look for internal and external evidence. This would include the following seven considerations:

  1. Eyewitness perspective – Does the author claim to be an eyewitness or that he uses eyewitness sources?
  2. Self-damaging material – Are the heroes of the account only presented in a positive light? When the gospels recorded a woman as the first witness of the resurrection, they risked rejection of the account. In the culture of that time, a woman’s testimony was not considered credible. Why would they risk a potentially damaging detail like this if the account was an intentional fabrication?
  3. Specific and irrelevant material – Authentic documents, unlike fabricated ones, tend to include details that are not necessary to the main story. Falsified accounts tend to generalize.
  4. Reasonable consistency and differences – Are the four gospel accounts consistent on the major points? Minor differences are expected in authentic accounts. If the four gospels were later products of the early church, a greater effort would have been made to iron out all differences.
  5. Features of mythology – C.S. Lewis once said, “…as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the gospels are, they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend, and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of things” (God in the Dock).
  6. Confirmation – Do contemporary documents or archeological finds substantiate or falsify the material?
  7. Character and motivation – Is there anything about the character or motivation of the author that would indicate that he fabricated the material? Would the author’s gain something from their story?

“The idea of a crucified god really did not make sense in the first century. It’s not a message you make up if you’re going to start a religion in the first century A.D.” (Ben Witherington).

Important questions:

If the New Testament gospels were written (centuries after the events recorded in them) as biased history by the early church, why would they portray the earliest leaders of Christianity as defectors? Why would they present the Apostle Peter as one who denied Jesus? Why wouldn’t they picture the apostles as eagerly expecting the resurrection? The main human characters are portrayed as fearful cowards hiding from the authorities. Surely this is not a self-serving account of history. And why would they use a woman as the first witness of the resurrection? Didn’t they realize that a woman’s testimony was inadmissible in the court of law? 

Consistent application of the rules for testing valid history yields a firm case for the reliability of the New Testament documents. The good news is that we have reliable evidence for belief in the resurrection of Jesus. This means we have a strong basis for expecting that those who turn to Jesus for salvation will also be raised from the dead. Jesus said, “I was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I hold the keys that unlock the prison of death and the grave” (Revelation 1:18). Those who trust in him have reliable evidence for believing that they too will be freed from the power of death. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25).

Do you understand why C. S. Lewis wrote: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important”?

For further reflection:

 “The biblical presentation of Jesus refuses to remain nicely confined to any of our containers. One picture after another of Jesus in this long line of nontraditional portraits fails before one question dear to the hearts of all faithful Christians: ‘What about the Cross?’… Why would anyone crucify the reasonable Jesus of the Enlightenment?  Why would anyone crucify the dreamy poet of Romanticism? Why would anyone crucify the Law-abiding, mild-mannered rabbi of revisionist Jewish scholarship? Why would anyone crucify the witty, enigmatic, and marginal figure of the Jesus Seminar?” A Jewish scholar says, ‘Theologians produced the figure they could admire most at the least cost.’ But the Cross stands amidst each such easy path, each attempt to avoid the heart of the matter and the cost of discipleship. The Cross remains a stumbling block for all who encounter this Jesus. He is perhaps not the person we want, but he is surely the person we still – desperately – need” (Allen)

“Jesus of Nazareth remains the most important individual who has ever lived. Nobody else has had comparable influence over so many nations for so long. Nobody else has so affected art and literature, music and drama. Nobody else can remotely match his record in the liberation, the healing and the education of mankind. Nobody else has attracted such a multitude not only of followers but of worshippers. Our claim, then, is not just that Jesus was one of the great spiritual leaders of the world. It would be hopelessly incongruous to refer to him as ‘Jesus the Great,’ comparable to Alexander the Great, Charles the Great, or Napoleon the Great. Jesus is not ‘the Great,’ he is the only. He has no peers, no rivals and no successors” (John Stott, The Contemporary Christian). 

Steve Cornell

See Where is Jesus now and what is He doing?

Dispel the myth about the First Amendment


Our Sunday News recently asked me to be a voice to balance the weekly columns of the assistant editor. He generates the most reader response for the paper but writes from more of a left-side, liberal perspective (labels I am a little uncomfortable with).

I’ve written a monthly faith-focused column for many years and recently learned that I generate the second most letters to the editor.

After an increasing number of readers expressed a desire for a more conservative voice to balance the offerings of the assistant editor, the paper contacted me and asked if I would be willing to write twice a month and address political subjects. But they told me that I should feel free to include the faith perspective wherever I wished. Politics and religion?

After accepting the invitation, they moved my columns to the front of the perspective section under the title, “The Right Side” (a title I am not completely comfortable with). Yet my new assignment is not as easy as it might sound. 

The first quite obvious challenge is the fact that religion and politics are two of the most publicly controversial subjects one could address.  Secondly, I am a local pastor and I don’t want people to think that they must hold my political positions to be part of our Church.

Thirdly, although the First Amendment was primarily about protecting religion from government control (i. e. to keep government out of religion), I don’t see it as my responsibility to conform government to my faith.

Over the years, I’ve consistently tried to addressed political issues without using Bible verses as my basis. This is not to say that my faith does not (or should not) inform my worldview and my moral opinions. But I don’t always need explicit references to faith when defending my views.

On a more positive side, my new role could help dispel the widespread myth about the first amendment being written to separate Church and State.

Although the amendment forbids congress from imposing a national religion, it does not require a kind of separation aimed at removing God from all of public life and discourse. Those who demand removal of God and religious reference from public life actually violate the part of the amendment protecting freedom of speech and the press. The founders were interested in protecting freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

If you don’t think that the public has been badly misled on the purpose of the First Amendment, try stating a moral opinion in a public setting. You’ll likely hear someone ask, “What about separation of Church and State?” “Isn’t that what the First Amendment is all about?” 

The other deeply misleading factor is the notion that one can have politics without moral opinion. You simply cannot engage in lawmaking without moral considerations. In his farewell speech, our first president said, “Of all the dispostitions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…”

Abraham Lincoln said, “In this country, public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed. Whoever molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions.” 

If this is true, is it surprising to find those who are hostile against God and religion trying to force both out of public conversation and policy making. Strangely, these same people are unwilling to admit that they are voicing their moral and religious opinions when rejecting others.

Any time (in political discussion) we say one action is right and another wrong, or demand a certain value as a human right, we are using our moral code to influence policy and lawmaking. Let’s stop pretending that it’s only “those Christians” who bring their beliefs with them to the political process. And please correct those who fall for a politicized abuse of the First Amendment .

Hadley Arkes rightly observed that, “There is no way of purging from human beings an understanding of right and wrong, of purging from common life a discourse about right and wrong. Once we think we are in the presence of real wrongs, we think (for example) that it’s wrong for people to torture their infants, our next response is not, ‘Ah, therefore, let’s give them tax incentives to induce them to stop.’ No, we respond with a law that forbids them.”

“Once you understand that this is the nature of the enterprise of ruling and governing, it becomes a matter of whether you will address the questions of right and wrong or whether you simply try to divert the questions and talk about something else.” 

It’s relatively easy to find moral and religious opinion behind most of what is written about policy and law. The moment someone says, “I think it’s wrong….,” he has introduced a moral opinion. When a policy or law forms either based on or in support of that opinion, morality and politics have joined and the people are bound by the outcome. To argue that his opinion does not come from religion is to beg the primary question, “Says whom?”

Let’s not fool ourselves! If a man demands public conformity to his views, he makes himself Lord and uses religious coercion in the political process. The issue is not so much about religion as about seeking public consensus on the good that we the people choose in our policies and laws.

Where does the conversation go from here? 

Steve Cornell


Religion won’t help you

Although Christianity is classified among the religions of the world, I am quite sure Jesus would not want any association with religion.
Religion is based in human efforts to appease a god. Christianity is about God drawing people into His undeserved grace. It is God making a way for humans to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with Him.
We seek God only because He first pursued us.
“We love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19). If we try to reverse this and make our desire for God prerequisite to God’s love for us, we’ve left Christianity and embraced religion.The gospel says, “… God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
An amazing act of divine mercy occurred when Jesus Christ died on the cross!This is repeatedly described in the New Testament in ways no human mind would devise.

“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them …. For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:1921).

“For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26).

Those who turn to God based on what He has done for us through Jesus Christ are forgiven their sins and reconciled to their Creator. Through faith in Christ, we go from being on bad terms with God to being on good terms. But this only comes through Jesus, our Redeemer, Mediator and Advocate with God (see: Galatians 3:13I Timothy 2:3-6I John 2:1-2).

Messy projects of transformation

We can begin to experience restoration to the image of God because of what God has done for us in Christ. When we put faith in Christ as our Savior, God begins His work of transforming us to His image. This transformation reaches completion at the resurrection when God will “transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). 

Transformation in this life will be a messy project. It will be a mixture of victories and failures; good days and bad days. We will always have to confess that even “when I want to do good, evil is right there with me” (Romans 7:21).

Although new believers commonly look for changes in their circumstances, God is far more concerned about changing character than circumstances. The changes God makes are thorough — affecting every part of our being—our thoughts, attitudes, values and actions.

Under the gracious and compelling influences of God’s Spirit, spiritual transformation impacts our intellect (as we use our minds to explore God’s truth); our wills (as we increasingly yield to God’s authority), and our emotions (as we cultivate godly affections and repudiate evil desires.

“For the Christian, the path of connectedness to God involves the development of a Christlike mind, will, affections (or emotions), character, relationships and actions. When any of these capacities is undernourished, our spiritual growth will be stunted” (Bruce Demarest, Satisfy Your Soul).

God transforms our character at a deep level and sometimes these changes are painful (Hebrews 12:1-11). But even in our struggles, we must remain confident of God’s unfailing love. God’s love is the only thing that remains unchanged in the difficulties of this life (Romans 8:18,35-39II Corinthians 4:16-18).

Steve Cornell